After a long day of watching the WPIAL championship games last Friday, The Fumbler returned home to find three fresh FedEx packages on his porch.
One was from TNT NBA sideline report Craig Sager, who sent The Fumbler one of his colorful suits that looked like it came directly from the 1970s. Another package was sent from Italy and contained a pair of custom-made alligator dress shoes. The last one was an eBay purchase The Fumbler made, an authentic bowtie once worn by Groucho Marx.
Dressed to impress, The Fumbler's flashy wardrobe can only mean one thing.
It's time to hand out this year's Fumblies.
The Fumblies honor the best of the best in the WPIAL and City League.
And the winners are ...
Player of the Year -- Mack Leftwich, North Allegheny. Figuring out who to honor for this award kept The Fumbler up at night. Washington's Shai McKenzie was a worthy choice. As were Clairton's Tyler Boyd and Central Valley's Robert Foster. But Leftwich was so good and so consistent playing quarterback for the team that won the WPIAL title in the highest classification that The Fumbler just couldn't say no.
Leftwich is 128 of 205 passing for 2,631 yards and 35 touchdowns. In two years, Leftwich has quarterbacked the Tigers to a 27-1 record. Division I-A coaches have passed on Leftwich, saying he is too short, but The Fumbler believes they are missing out on a gem of a player.
Coach of the Year -- Bob Palko, West Allegheny. Guys such as Chad Walsh (Valley) and Pat Monroe (South Allegheny) are well-deserving candidates for helping their schools make major turnarounds, but The Fumbler feels that Palko guiding his team to a WPIAL Class AAA title trumps the competition. West Allegheny spent a good bit of the season flying under the radar with Parkway Conference rivals Montour and Central Valley getting most of the attention, but the Indians -- void of any star players -- flexed their muscles down the stretch and leaned on a tremendous defense and sound running game to help Palko pick up his sixth WPIAL championship.
Game of the Year -- Washington 18, Jeannette 15, Sept. 28. McKenzie took the WPIAL by storm this season, running for 2,689 yards and 41 touchdowns. And, while McKenzie rushed for at least 200 yards nine times and had a pair of six-touchdown games, one of his signature moments came on special teams. With Washington trailing Jeannette by three in the final minute, Daron Whitaker blocked a punt and Mc-Kenzie picked up the loose ball and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds left to lift the Little Prexies to the win. Washington went on to finish the regular season undefeated and eventually reached the WPIAL Class AA championship game.
Moment of the Year -- Clairton breaking the state record for consecutive wins. Years from now, the 2012 season will likely be remembered most for Clairton winning No. 60. In fitting fashion, the Bears earned the monumental victory on the field that has become their home away from home -- Heinz Field. The day after Thanksgiving, Clairton won its fifth WPIAL Class A title in a row by defeating Sto-Rox, 58-21. The Fumbler watched as the Clairton players and coaches celebrated afterward, passing around and kissing the championship trophy as if it were the Stanley Cup. The longest current winning streak in the nation continues.
What would your picks be? Let The Fumbler know by emailing him at: email@example.com
A week ago, The Fumbler went 3-1 in his WPIAL championship picks and misfired on his PIAA playoff prediction. That brought his season record to 524-133 (.797).
Here is his take on how the WPIAL champions will do in their first PIAA playoff games. All of these quarterfinals will be played at 7 tonight.
North Allegheny (13-0) vs. Erie McDowell (7-5) at Seneca Valley -- These teams need no introduction to one another. McDowell was a WPIAL member in 2010 and '11, playing in the same conference as North Allegheny. Last season, North Allegheny put up more than 500 yards of offense on its way to a resounding, 49-14 win against the Trojans. The Tigers were the more physical team in that game and will be again. Winner: North Allegheny.
West Allegheny (12-1) vs. Erie Cathedral Prep (12-0) at Erie Veterans Stadium -- West Allegheny has allowed a total of 34 points in eight games since suffering its lone loss to Robert Foster and Central Valley. Like Foster, Cathedral Prep's Delton Williams is one of the top all-around players in the state. Williams and Damion Terry -- both Michigan State recruits -- will be too much for West Allegheny to handle. Winner: Erie Cathedral Prep.
Aliquippa (13-0) vs. Karns City (10-3) at Central Valley -- Karns City's nickname is the Gremlins. The Fumbler remembers watching the movie Gremlins, a horror/comedy from the mid-80s starring a character named Gizmo. He also remembers the Gremlin his uncle drove back in the day. As for Karns City, these Gremlins might be nearly horrified by the talent they see across from them, and it will drive them crazy. Winner: Aliquippa.
Clairton (13-0) vs. Berlin Brothersvalley (11-1) at Somerset -- Win No. 60 now in the rearview mirror, Clairton takes aim at winning a fourth PIAA title in a row. If history is any indication, this won't be close. The past four years, the Bears won their opening-round PIAA playoff games by scores of 44-0, 52-0, 46-0 and 26-0. Expect another romp. Winner: Clairton.